Egypt’s Government Bans Public Protests

A new law bans gatherings of more than 10 people

Protesters really in Tahrir Square in 2011
Protesters really in Tahrir Square in 2011 Joseph Hill

In 2011, mass protests in Egypt pushed out long-time leader Hosni Mubarak. After Mubarak’s fall, protestors again took to the streets to demonstrate against the military leaders who had stepped into the power vacuum. After Mohamed Morsi, the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, was elected president, he, too, was forced out amid violent protests in July of this year. And there were protests that followed, objecting to Morsi’s ousting.

Now, the current government is banning protests, says the Associated Press.

Since Morsi left power, a violent conflict has pitted the interim government, propped up by the military, against the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. The ban covers any gathering of more than ten people that wasn’t previously approved by the government.

Egypt’s military originally wanted to make “insulting the state” similarly illegal, says the AP, but that provision was removed from the bill.

The new law is more restrictive than regulations used under the rule of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, overthrown in Egypt’s 2011 uprising that marked the start of unrest in the country. Rights groups and activists immediately denounced it, saying it aims to stifle opposition, allow repressive police practices and keep security officials largely unaccountable for possible abuses.

The restrictions are tight and widely focused:

The law… grants security agencies the right to bar any protests or public gatherings, including election-related meetings of political parties, if they deem it a threat to public safety or order… The new law also bars gatherings in places of worship, a regular meeting place for all protests in Egypt and one heavily used by Islamist groups. The law also says the police have the right — following warnings — to use force gradually, including the use of water cannons, tear gas and clubs.

It should not be surprising that, in a country whose recent political leadership has been defined by the protests, the new rules are not being universally praised. The AP quotes Shaima Awad, a Muslim brother member, saying that the law “unifies revolutionaries afresh. … We can now all agree that the military authorities are trying to strangle any voice that says no. We won’t accept and others won’t accept that either.”

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